Scoppe: The non-conflict between science and faith

June 10, 2014 

  • Science standards

    The State Board of Education will decide whether S.C. students should be taught about evolution or about the “controversy”

    of evolution when it meets at 1 p.m. today. Watch the meeting at ed.sc.gov/agency/stateboard/.

— FOR THE FIRST 40 years of my life, it never occurred to me that a priest could turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Then I started attending a church that believed this happened during the Mass, so I had to do some serious examination.

I wasn’t wholly convinced by the theological explanation, but I was and am convinced of this: God can do anything he wants to do. From there, it was easy to conclude that if he wants to work through my priest to infuse a wafer and a chalice of wine with the real presence of our savior, he can do that. I figure if it turns out that I and the overwhelming majority of the world’s Christians are wrong on this, then there’s no harm done, so at least weekly, I accept the consecrated wine and host in good conscience.

I also believe, and always have, that God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, seen and unseen, and that he created man in his own image.

What I don’t believe is that he did all that in 144 human hours. I don’t believe he did it just 6,000 years ago, or even 60,000 or 600,000 years ago.

I believe he could have done all that. Just as he could have sent little green men from one of his other planets to populate our planet. I don’t believe he chose to do any of that.

I don’t believe he chose to do any of that because I don’t believe God likes to make fools of the beings he created in his own image. I don’t believe he would have done the Garden of Eden thing and then fabricated fossil evidence to trick us into thinking otherwise, or given us the brains to use that evidence and our observations of the world around us to develop the theories of evolution and natural selection.

Do I think the scientists have every piece of those theories perfectly figured out? No, just as they don’t have the theories all worked out to explain all that extra mass in the universe or, for that matter, to really understand what does and doesn’t constitute “life” in other parts of the universe. Do I believe the scientific theories about the history of the earth and life are largely sound? Yes. Do I believe there is anything about believing the scientific theories God gave us the brains to devise that conflicts with believing that God created everything? No.

Christians who reject evolution and natural selection say it conflicts with the creation story in Genesis, and it certainly does. But drill down deeper, and what you hear is that those theories devalue human life. Make it seem less sacred. If we evolved from monkeys, they say, then we’re not God’s special creation.

It’s an argument I’ve never gotten.

To believe that human beings are special to God, all I need to know is that he sent his son, a part of himself, made incarnate by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, to live as one of us, yet without sin, to give himself up to death and, rising from the grave, destroy death, and make the whole creation new.

That’s not an idea that conflicts with science. It’s something scientists can’t explain, because it was a miracle, and it’s something that secularists reject because they don’t believe in miracles. But it’s not something that forces anyone to reject any scientific evidence or theories in order to embrace.

It is a reality that makes me feel a lot more special to God than the idea that he created me from some man’s left-over parts.

I understand that there are Christians who consider my beliefs about creation heretical. What a lot of people don’t understand — what, in fact, a lot of those Christians don’t understand — is that there are a lot of Christians who do not consider my beliefs heretical. There are a lot of Christians who, like me, believe that God is big enough to have created the world and all of us any way he chose.

There are a lot of Christians who believe that God gave the Garden of Eden story to human beings who didn’t know enough at that point to understand the more complicated story. That the creation story and everything else up to Abraham is, as my Sunday School teacher likes to put it, folklore. Stories passed down from parent to child over generations.

There are a lot of Christians who believe that the point of the creation story is to tell us who created us, not how he chose to create us. There are a lot of Christians who believe that there is absolutely no conflict between our faith and our science.

I don’t think Sen. Mike Fair is a bad person or a stupid person or a crazy person. I have known Mike for a quarter century, and I like him. I agree with him about a lot of things. Like his contention that you can’t separate morality from law, that the only question is whose morality gets written into law.

But he and the rest of the majority on the Education Oversight Committee are wrong to suggest that there’s some scientific “controversy” to teach about evolution, and therefore wrong to insist that our state teach that “controversy” instead of simply teaching evolution.

There are evolutionary scientists who have studied the evidence and concluded that the earth was formed over billions of years, that life started out very simple and became more complex through the same sort of natural selection that we see from one season to the next in a garden, that there are clear genetic links between human beings and other primates. And then there is a small percent of scientists — largely trained in some sort of science other than evolution — who are driven by their faith alone rather than the scientific method. Their difference of opinion is not a scientific controversy; it is a conflict between science and some Christians.

If we want to teach our children that about those two different groups of scientists, that’s fine. If we want to teach our children that there are some Christians who don’t believe in evolution, that’s fine too; in fact, those children who don’t realize that really do need to know it.

It’s even fine if we want to tell children that they don’t have to believe in evolution. Just like they don’t have to believe that representative democracy is the best kind of government or the free-enterprise system is the best kind of economic system or that base-10 is the best kind of mathematics system for everyday life. They just have to understand it, be conversant in it, and get it right on a test.

What we don’t need to teach them is that there is some real controversy in the scientific community, the community of people who are educated to the point that they can be called experts. Because there is not.

And we certainly don’t need to teach children that Christianity has a problem with science.

Some Christians do. A lot of us do not.

Ms. Scoppe can be reached at cscoppe@thestate.com. Follow her on Twitter @CindiScoppe.

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